FT-IR

August 31, 2010

The technique of FT-IR has found wide application in the pharmaceutical industry for years, and now with portable instrumentation making it ideal for homeland security and first response applications, FT-IR promises to see an even greater jump in popularity in coming years. Joining us for this discussion are Jerry Sellors of PerkinElmer; Jenni Briggs of Pike; and Simon Nunn of Thermo Fisher Scientific.

The technique of FT-IR has found wide application in the pharmaceutical industry for years, and now with portable instrumentation making it ideal for homeland security and first response applications, FT-IR promises to see an even greater jump in popularity in coming years. Joining us for this discussion are Jerry Sellors of PerkinElmer; Jenni Briggs of Pike; and Simon Nunn of Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Food safety and homeland security are attracting a lot of attention in field of FT-IR these days. What would you say is the hottest application area at the moment?

Sellors: Food safety is a global problem but FT-IR is not ideally suited to trace analyses. Adulteration is a very significant issue and increasingly so with poor harvests and rising food prices, and this is an ideal field for FT-IR.

Briggs: Within the past year, FT-IR has remained a prominent research tool. A couple of the hottest research applications include spectroelectrochemistry and catalytic studies for renewable and biological studies. Turnkey FT-IR sampling accessories have been developed to facilitate these works.

Coupled instrumentation is also gathering renewed interest such as TGA-FT-IR and GC-FT-IR. FT-IR-ATR has also been merged with a commercially-available rheometer.

Nunn: Food safety, or consumer protection in the wider sense, is very much in the public interest and as such receives publicity beyond the traditional scientific media. As commerce becomes ever more globalized and chains of supply become longer, raw material identification and product authentication are critical and are hot areas for FT-IR.

What would you say has been the most important development in the field of FT-IR over the past year?

Sellors: With the technology at a relatively mature stage, the basic technology developments in commercialized lab instruments have been relatively minor.

Briggs: From a sampling accessories viewpoint, the adoption of hollow waveguides in place of traditional mid-IR fibers for mid-IR remote sensing accessory is an exciting step forward for previous technology that has not changed over the past 15 years. Hollow waveguides offer a full spectral range and enhanced durability compared to the fragile mid-IR optical fibers.

Nunn: It is difficult to highlight one specific development. However, the increased capabilities of, and interest in, FT-IR microscopes and handheld instrumentation has been very exciting.

Is handheld/portable FT-IR instrumentation anywhere near maturity, or is there a long way to go before its capabilities are fully realized?

Sellors: There is still a considerable way to go before its capabilities are fully realized. Two issues that come to mind are cost and sampling interface for handheld instruments.

Nunn: The handheld FT-IR instrumentation available today is comparable in capability to a laboratory bench equipped with an ATR, which is regarded as a mature technique. Handhelds are ready to use in many applications today. As handheld technology continues to evolve we should anticipate seeing enhanced capabilities in the future.

What do you see for the future of FT-IR, in the areas of both applications and instrumentation?

Sellors: There is likely to be a home for FT-IR in advanced analytical studies and research for some time to come, but competing technologies such as QCL will play an ever-increasing role in industrial and field-based measurements. Applications areas addressing safety, security, and environmental concerns will probably develop further, in addition to the more conventional areas of product identity testing and troubleshooting.

Briggs: The advancement of FT-IR accessories will continue to provide the means to make measurements quick, convenient, and meaningful.

Nunn: There aren’t many analytical techniques that provide as much information with so little effort as FT-IR. The key is to place this technology closer to the source of the problem and put it in the hands of those who can benefit most readily from the answers it provides. Therefore, we will see smaller, more robust instrumentation, empowered by smarter software moving ever closer to the source of the sample.

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